Beyond the lingering golden glow we’ve been treated to this fall, winter looms long and white. Although we try not to let the cold keep us from getting outdoors, the reality of having newborn twins has me thinking about destinations balmier than our Canadian backyard.
South Padre Island, Texas, is just the place for a family to enjoy fresh air, minus frozen nostrils.
South Padre Island is a 55-kilometre-long barrier island between Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Boasting soft white sand beaches and clear, warm water, it sounds like an ideal place to play. Add in fantastic opportunities to immerse in and connect with nature, and I’m sold.
There are so many outdoorsy activities available for soaking in the tropical weather and exploring the nature of the island.
For example, it’s hard to ignore the sand artists at work on a masterpiece down at the beach. Several expert sandcastle builders offer lessons in creating magnificent fortresses and sculptures. Book one of these entertaining and creative classes early on your stay and you’ll be able to leave something behind for other travellers to admire and enjoy. The impermanence of these sculptures just adds to their beauty and fun.
South Padre is a paradise for animal lovers, too, as it is home to an incredible array of wildlife, sea turtles being a prominent attraction. Sea Turtle Inc protects the area’s population through conservation, medical care and education. So far this year, the organization has protected and released over 7,000 hatchlings and around 70 rehabilitated turtles! Visit Sea Turtle Inc to meet rescued residents and turtles in rehabilitation programs, watch them get fed breakfast and even witness releases when conditions allow.
Watching the tiny turtles racing to reach the water is fun for all ages, and the clear, glistening waters they rush towards isn’t only tempting for the turtles—the entire family will be itching to get splashing. There are plenty of watersports to try out in the warm waves, including wind surfing, jet skiing and surfing.
The ocean is rich with sea life worth discovering for a day or two. Hopping on a fishing boat and reeling in a few of the many fish species living in the gulf would be right up my husband and son’s alley, but you don’t have to enjoy fishing to find out what lives below the surface. Original Dolphin Watch offers eco-tours, where the boat crew drags a net along the gulf’s floor to collect a sample of marine life for everyone to examine up close.
Back on the island, get up close and personal with the area’s toothier wildlife members. Being face to face with a big alligator is thrilling no matter what ages your family is made up of. Meet Big Padre the gator and feed the tortoises at SPI Birding, Nature and Alligator Sanctuary. Once everyone has had their turn to hold baby gators and snakes, head out for a relaxing nature walk on Laguna Madre Nature Trail. The boardwalk trail winds through four acres of marshland frequented by myriads of coastal and migratory birds, butterflies and other wildlife species.
To me, the perfect day on South Padre Island looks like this: After spending a bluebird day enjoying sand and sea via one of the many activities the island offers listed above, we’d rent LED-lit stand-up paddle boards for a sunset paddle. We’d glide on the lapping sea as the sky fades from spectacular orange to calming navy blue, ending a special getaway full of natural experiences.